There were things Cya had always known, and never, ever thought about concretely enough to put into words.
There were other things she had put into words merely to stop thinking about them.
Thus: She might have said a thousand times, a hundred thousand times, that “I’m just around to keep you guys alive.” She had said it, smiled affectionately and reminded Leo of this responsibility or that facet of reality, and moved on to the next task.
But never, never in decades of saying “I’m here to keep you alive,” or “get back here before you get your stupid ass killed,” or any of the other exasperated things she’d said, never had she thought Leo was listening, and never had she allowed herself to really think about the words.
To think about Leo not coming back.
To think about him going down a path she could not follow.
She caught a sob before it came out, but the second one was too quick. “I…” She didn’t want to cry in front of Leo. She didn’t do that, she didn’t cry where anyone could see her.
She was crying. Still, she met his eyes. “I… I’ll accept your thanks for that,” she managed. He was watching her with worried eyes. She tried to pull herself together. “I -” She had known this man for almost her entire life, and she was flustered beyond belief. She sat down slowly. “Leo, you’re welcome… but.” But what? “But giving you a teaching job here…” She managed a smile. It was anemic, but she was smiling. Smiling was good. “You know I like having you around, right?” She flapped her hand, dismissing all the petty things they could say. “I like having you around. Giving you a teaching job – well, it just killed two birds with one stone.”
It turned out kill was exactly the wrong word to say to herself right then. She choked on a sob, mortified, peeking up through her lashes at Leo like they were teenagers again.
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